Ah, being to resigned to failure. While many of your fellow poolies will be gearing up for a league title, you, my failing friend, are at or very near to the bottom. Several individuals in the same boat have put out their plea for more information on some sneaky steals they can partake in at the draft table. I'm more than happy to oblige. Just suck less next year, will you?
Nick Dodge (6th Round, 183rd Overall by Carolina)
An overage choice in last year's edition of the Entry Draft, 5'10, 175 lbs Nick Dodge was taken after a spectacular performance for the ECAC's Clarkson Golden Knights. In 2005-06, the diminutive and dominant Dodge led the school in every major offensive catagory, finishing with 16 goals and 25 assists in 41 games. One year later, not much has changed. With seven games left on the schedule, Dodge is once again Clarkson's Knight in shining armor with 35 points in 31 contests. The slight right wing looks to cap off his NCAA career with his first 20-20 campaign, and move on to Hurricanes camp in the fall. A team known for having an offensively brilliant top-six, the Canes will give Dodge every chance possible to make a roster that thins out dramatically after those top two lines. With a good effort in camp, the 21 year-old stands a very good chance of replacing Chad Larose on the fourth line. However, if his team-leading eight powerplay goals are any indication, a spot on the second man-advantage unit is a very good possibility. As a rookie, 10-11-21 through 60 games is the least production you should see if Dodge adapts well to the NHL.
Bobby Hughes (4th Round, 163rd Overall by Carolina)
While the aforementioned Dodge and prospect power forward Andrew Ladd are offensively talented, both need a playmaking centreman to buoy their totals. Meet 19 year-old Bobby Hughes. Standing 5'11 and 170, the Richmond Hill native was an afterthought among scouts in 2006 due to seemingly poor defensive coverage and skating. A fourth-most 75 points for the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs wasn't enough to offset those concerns, and the dazzling playmaking centreman cratered as a result. Desperately seeking offensive firepower, the Carolina Hurricanes were in position to be picky, and promptly selected him in the 4th round. Since then, Hughes has performed a dramatic about-face, and has been without a doubt Kingston's best all-around forward. While a -3 isn't much to write home about, it stands out among a group of forwards who are a collective -42. In fact, that -3 is the best on the top line, with much-talked-about Chris Stewart and never-talked-about Peder Skinner being a -8 and -9 respectively. But +/- isn't what you should be looking at here. Hughes' 38 goals and 55 assists lead the Frontenacs in both catagories, and his 93 points is seventh-highest in the league. A great faceoff man to boot, there is clearly very little left for Hughes to learn in the O, and the Canes have taken notice. Coveted in their front office, the centreman could help form one of the most potent fourth lines if he makes the show out of camp and lines up with Ladd and Dodge. 25 points in the form of five goals and 20 assists will result if it happens.
Matt Marquardt (Round 7, 194th Overall, Columbus)
You know you have good scouts when: the forward you pick almost 200th in the draft, a forward who is 16th on his club in scoring, leads the team the next year in goals and points. Such is the case with 6'2, 222 lbs power winger Matt Marquardt. One of several project picks made every year, the Columbus Blue Jackets keyed in on not the staggering 16th place scoring finish, but on the 16 goals, 69 PIM and big frame Marquardt presented in 2006. Those 16 goals are now 36, a staggering 14 more than the nearest Moncton Wildcat, the power winger's QMJHL club. The next-nearest forward in team scoring? Phil Mangan, who has 50 points. Dominant on a very poor team, Marquardt will be in his element if a strong camp leads to a roster spot on the craptacular Blue Jackets. While 63 points in 61 games aren't exactly earth-shattering, Marquardt stands to earn a roster spot the same way Patrice Bergeron did in Boston: through hard work, excellent two-way ability and a top-notch shot. And when he does, you'll be the envy of your keeper league.
Brad Marchand (Round 3, 71st overall, Boston)
Another small-things type of guy, 5'9, 183 lbs pivot Brad Marchand certainly fits the bill. And that's not just a short joke. His team's leader in assists and second in club PIM (96) and forward plus/minus (+14), the second-day selection of the Boston Bruins in June of 2006 has repayed immediated dividends. A member of Team Canada due to his unique mix of penalty-killing ability and potential as a penalty killer, Marchand was a steady contributor as his country went on to win Gold. Third on the team in both goals and +/-, Marchand returned to the Q with a vengance, and has been one of the league's best two-way players. The Bruins will undoubtedly welcome that on the roster in 2006-07, unless they woild rather see the gifted centreman compete for the QMJHL scoring title next year. A lock for 25 points as a rookie, that total could be bumped to 35 with the right linemates in Beantown.
Mason Raymond (2nd round, 51st overall, Vancouver)
Plucked from the never-highly-drafted-from Alberta Junior A league, speedster Mason Raymond was coming off a 41 goal, 82-point performance as a second-year member of the Camrose Kodiaks. That offense carried over to the NCAA's University of Minnesota-Duluth, where as a freshman, the 6'0 PK dynamo notched a team-second-best 28 points. Raymond's ridiculously fast development has continued into 2006-07 as the now-sophmore leads UMD in scoring by a 13-point margin, poaching 14 goals and 29 assists in just 35 games. The Canucks will be happy if the Calgary native gets just half that next year, and boy, will they be happy. 21 points and a new weapon on special teams is what Raymond stands to provide as an NHL rookie in 2007-08.
Slava Trukhno (4th round, 120th overall, Edmonton)
I've talked about him enough this year, so you should have already picked hm up. But in case you haven't, here's a reminder: 3rd in the Q in assists. 6th in points. One of the best two-way wingers in the league. And not afraid to mix it up. That's fourth round draft choice Slava Trukhno, who was recently signed by the Oilers to his first pro contract. Best compared to current Oiler Patrick Thoresen for his grit and PK ability, Trukhno's footspeed and dazling hands are miles ahead, but the work ethic remains the same. In fact, Trukhno is good, he stands to make Thoresen expendable. Think Hemsky with a two-way game, and you have a player with the potential to make an impact next year.
Raymond Macias (4th round, 124th overall, Colorado)
There are players who do much better than they ever would if they played for any other team. Such is the case with Raymond Macias. A dominant defenseman in the Q, any number of stacked NHL teams might choose to take the extremely gifted rearguard along slowly despite 66 points in 64 games. And that's never a bad thing to do. But the Colorado Avalanche are a team in love with tinkering. Kyle Cumiskey and Jeff Finger have seen various duties with the Avs as the non-contenders attempt to find out who fits and who doesn't on their young squad. Most other teams would have acquired a journeyman to fill the bottom pairing. Macias will walk- or skate- into such a situation next year. Simply too good for major junior, the 6'1 defender will likely have a dominant camp and an equally dominant start. If he doesn't taper off, you'll have found yourself a steal as the 20 year-old establishes himself as a powerplay QB.
Kris Russell (Round 3, 67th overall, Columbus)
Another team with holes to fill on the blueline, the Columbus Blue Jackets will find themselves in a similar situation with a much more hyped offensive defenseman. The chances are good that Russell's WJC performance cemented his status as unavailable, but you may be surprised to know how quickly he will get to the NHL. Don't be afraid to move a next-season asset, which some Russell owners may take as they pencil in the 19 year-old as a two-year project. The BJs love to rush their prospects, for good- and mostly for bad. That likely won't change with Russell, who actually fills a major hole on the blueline: a point shot. There are few better goal-scoring defensemen Russell's age in the world. Just how good is he? Think 29-goals good. That's the SECOND MOST on the entire Medicine Hat Tigers squad. Russell could actually lead that WHL team in scoring by season's end. 10-12-22 as an NHL rookie is a conservative estimate for next year.